10 Great Reasons to Visit Cook County

Cook County is the North Shore’s Most Northern Spot

Cook County is the most northern part of the North Shore. It offers rugged hikes, spotty cellphone reception, potential bear and moose sightings, and some of the most breathtaking views in the midwest. There are several state parks, epic waterfalls, including Minnesota’s tallest waterfall and one of Minnesota’s cutest towns, Grand Marais.

#1 Walk to Artists Point

Be sure to walk along the beach and out to Artists Point, which is a narrow peninsula that juts into Lake Superior. Be aware that sometimes this narrow pier is slick and wet in warmer months and icy in colder months as water often splashes over during high tide. For a short and easy walk, and some of the best views of Grand Marais, you’ll want to check this spot out. The water is so clear and the rocks along the shoreline are great for skipping.

things to do in grand marais

#2 Grab Coffee at Java Moose

Java Moose is a family-owned business that first opened in 1992. Located in the heart of downtown Grand Marais, you can grab your iced coffee or latte and sit on their outdoor deck facing the lake. Or, walk across the street and find a bench, where you can listen to the waves crash.

#3 Sip Beer at Voyageur Brewing

Stop by Voyageur Brewery for a refreshing beer after a long day of hiking and exploring. They are set back from the downtown area and have a rooftop patio with great views of Lake Superior. From red ales to blonde and sours, Voyageur Brewing has something for everyone. They also have a great food menu and I highly recommend the fish tacos.

Things to do in Grand Marais Minnesota

#4 Watch the Sunset with Cocktails at Gunflint Tavern

Stop by Gunflint Tavern for great food and an excellent view of Artists Point from their rooftop bar. They have live music fairly often along with a great, relaxed vibe. The first time we went, we were lucky enough to get a seat in front of the huge window on their rooftop (see the image above). We enjoyed cocktails and watched the sunset. They also have a great food menu, and I highly recommend their Cubano sandwich. You’ll also find a fun “buy a beer for a friend” chalkboard inside, so you can surprise your friends when they visit the Gunflint Tavern.

#5 Enjoy the World’s Best Donuts

Since 1969, the World’s Best Donuts has been making mouth-watering donuts and other sweet treats. From chocolate glazed and jelly-filled donuts to freshly brewed coffee, this spot is only open during late spring and summer, and the line begins to wrap around their tiny building very early in the morning.

#6 Visit Unique Shops and Boutiques

Downtown Grand Marais offers a variety of adorable shops and boutiques. Many of them offer beautiful mugs, sweaters, and jewelry. Each one has more character than the next. Grab candy and fudge at Gunflint Mercantile, shop locally made artwork at The Big Lake, or browse the massive book collection at Lake Superior Trading Post.

Things to do in Grand Marais Minnesota

#7 Enjoy Grand Marais’ Excellent Food Scene

Grand Marais has so many great places to eat, and many of them are lakefront. Check out Sydney’s Frozen Custard and Wood-Fired Pizza for dinner and dessert. Get your taco fix at Hungry Hippie Tacos, eat fresh fish at the Angry Trout Cafe, grab a slice of pizza at Sven and Ole’s, or have a mouthwatering burger with beer served in a mason jar at My Sister’s Place. Many of these restaurants have outdoor seating with great views of Lake Superior!

#8 Hike to Devil’s Kettle

The Judge C.R. Magney State Park in far northeastern Minnesota is an oasis for waterfalls, wildlife, trees, and quiet hikes. Many trails are rocky with uneven terrain so wear hiking boots for safety. When Nic and I visited, everything was extremely green and there was a dense fog hanging over the park. It was quiet and serene, we practically had the entire park to ourselves.

The waterfall, Devil’s Kettle, has stumped scientists for years as the left half of the waterfall seems to “disappear.” It’s believed that people have tossed sticks, GPs trackers, and ping pong balls down the falls waiting for them to pop up further down the river, only to be disappointed when they never reappear. A few years ago, a DNR hydrologist finally confirmed that the waterfall goes underground into a pothole and reemerges roughly 500 feet downstream!

#9 See Minnesota’s Tallest Waterfall

Minnesota’s most northern state park is a few yards from the Canadian border! The Grand Portage State Park has Minnesota’s tallest waterfall, believed to be roughly 100-130′ tall. Take the one-mile round-trip paved path to the waterfall. Or, hike a rugged and heavily wooded 4.5-mile round-trip trail to Middle Falls, which has a 20-foot drop.

#10 Visit the Grand Portage National Monument

Spend time at the Grand Portage National Monument that preserves a vital center of British fur trade activity and Ojibwe heritage. Grand Portage was once one of the British Empire’s four main fur trading centers in North America. The Grand Portage, or large canoe route, is an 8.5-mile path through waterfalls and rivers that flows into Lake Superior. This path is part of the historic trade route of the French-Canadian voyageurs.

Rest and Relax at the Best Western

Nic and I have been to the North Shore several times. For our most recent trip, we stayed at the Best Western Superior Inn. The rooms are large, updated, and clean. We had a private balcony just a few yards away from Lake Superior. There is a full breakfast buffet each morning which includes fruit, cereal, toast, muffins, pastries, juice, and coffee. You’ll also find a bar in the lobby and a shop with snacks and sodas for those late-night cravings.

Nothing Compares to the North Shore

The North Shore of Lake Superior is unpredictable, stunning, and rugged. Whether it’s a bright sunny day, or there’s a dense fog, this region of Minnesota is incredible. We love our trips up north, time spent disconnecting on hikes in the woods, and enjoying great food and drinks after a day of exploring. It’s a great place to be in any season.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out my post on the best things to do in Grand Marais, Otter Tail County and Stillwater!


  • Josy A

    Woooah that is really interesting about the Devil’s Kettle! I wonder how they tracked it…if they dropped some kind of gps device into the flowing water. It must be so cool to be a scientist if your research involves solving that kind of mystery!

    The food scene looks incredible too. I am a massive fan of fish tacos – they look soooo tasty!

  • Claire

    To be honest I didn’t realize there were so many cool hikes around Minnesota until browsing your site; I’d love to do the two waterfall ones! Seems almost like rainforest vibes, I love that kind of terrain. I also love that last photo where those two figures look like ghosts in the fog, very mysterious….

    “World’s Best Donuts” is about as enticing a name as it gets haha. Here in Flagstaff we don’t have any donut shops. Like, I don’t think we even have one. It’s a donut no-mans-land so looking at these pictures has me craving a trip asap.

  • Yanitza

    I think it’s about time I visit some places in Minnesota! I love this! That walk to Artists Point sounds like something I would definitely love doing.

  • Susan

    Love the Grand Marais area! I originally went there specifically to see and learn more about the mystery behind Devil’s Kettle! Can’t wait to go back and experience it in a different season. Thanks for the tips for things to add to my itinerary for my next visit!

  • Karen

    So many great things on the North Shore. I would like to see the Grand Portage. When I led canoe trips in northern Minnesota for Outward Bound, we always talked about it. I can’t imagine carrying a canoe for 8.5 miles, especially the heavy ones they had in the old days.

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